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The One Where Julie Reads a Chapter of Extreme Close-Up on YouTube

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I am William Hung.

I’ve got young kids and no TiVo, so I don’t watch much television. There are some shows I watch if the kids go to bed on time — a couple sitcoms, a couple dramas… andacouplerealityshows.

Heresy, I know, for a writer to watch reality television. I expect I’ll be publicly stoned for admitting it — and trust me, I’ve self-flagellated.

What’s the attraction, then?

The first reality show that ever hooked me was Joe Millionaire. I’m embarrassed to disclose, I didn’t miss a minute of Evan Marriott’s escapades.

Then there’s American Idol. I could probably watch an entire season of auditions in a single sitting. (And it’s not because I enjoy the music. That much I know.)

And to, um… round out my list, The Biggest Loser.

Jeezus, Grandpa! What am I watching these things for?!

Well, despite all efforts to the contrary, I’ve got bubblegum tendencies. Deep down, there’s a kindergartener in here dreaming of happily ever after.

And artists – whether they paint with color, music or words – tend to wrestle with self-doubt. Just when I think I’ve got a handle on this screenwriting thing, some screechy-voiced bimbo mouths off to Simon Cowell about how sorry he’ll be when she wins a Grammy.

And, as a human living on this planet for a while, there are aspects of myself I’ve learned to hate.

See, the reality shows I’m attracted to are the ones starring me. It’s all about Universal Theme, really.

Maybe the success of reality T.V. isn’t voyeuristic… but solipsistic.

Tar Pits

Pre-outlining. I’ve been a little bit stuck, you maybe noticed if you’ve read much here lately.

I posed a question over at Artful Writer

, wondering what particular story chunks other writers need in hand or mind before they’re ready to outline (or write, as in the case of those brave and/or brilliant souls who can get there without foreplay).

Problem was, I had plenty of chunks, but it still wasn’t happening. (Guess what– outlines don’t write themselves. There were a few mornings I woke up, checked the computer and was surprised to find this out.)

A friend suggested a stream of consciousness exercise to help determine which of my story ideas would spark me most. That helped. I ended up combining two of them, which fleshed out the whole deal in my mind a lot more.

A lot more.

‘Cause suddenly I can feel the world of my story hovering just outside the realm of the world I live in. It’s 3-D and I can sense the sounds and colors and life over there. It exists and I made it.

Too ethereal for you? It’s kind of like sensing the neighbors in the apartment next to yours. You haven’t been inside, but you have a vague idea of what their pad looks like and who they are.

So, it looks like I’ve pulled myself up onto the bank of the tar pit, but I’m not out of danger, yet. There’s a T-Rex breathing hot on the back of my neck, goes by the name of “Laziness.”

And if I don’t watch out, he’s gonna bite me on the ass.

When I was a kid, Grandma drove a cranberry-colored Mercedes sedan.

Doubt it was as cool in reality as in my recollection, but I sure loved that car.

Grandma was an elementary school science teacher back then and used to take me to the natural museum for little field trips when I was the only grandchild old enough to go. (Thanks to her, I didn’t flip out last year when some tiny black snakes found their way into the house while my husband was out of town.)

Sometimes I’d swing by Grandma and Grandpa’s condo on a lunch break from my first post-college job. During one of those lunches, back when PRETTY WOMAN was in theaters, Grandma told me, “I saw that Julia Roberts on television the other day. She’s really not that pretty. She reminds me of you, dolling.”

Snort. “Thanks, Grandma.”

“Oh, you know what I mean.” Chuckle. Dismissive wave.

Grandma’s married name is Ethel Herman, yet despite the similarity of name to one of this country’s first divas, Grandma’s never been known for her lovely singing voice.

Except, perhaps, to Grandpa.

One big family dinner, Grandpa was mid-sentence when Grandma sang a verse, apropos of nothing. The whole table went quiet. Grandpa forgot what he was about to say. Then he smiled and said, almost to himself, “Oh, she sent me.”

Grandpa did it right. About eight years ago. He was 86 and in generally good health. Fell asleep on the sofa and just never woke up.

Grandma is probably doing it tonight. That’s what the hospice folks say. I remember how frustrated she’d get back when she was sharp enough to feel the Dementia coming on. The last few times we visited, she barely opened her eyes long enough to enjoy her great-grandchildren. If Grandma were a dog, she’d have been permitted a humane and dignified exit years ago. However, she’s a demented old lady in a nursing home who, apparently, has decided to take matters into her own frail hands and has stubbornly refused to eat since Saturday.

You go, Grandma.

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

I wore pink on New Year’s Eve. (It’s the new black. Or– crap, maybe that was that last year…)

Our evening was spent at one of those affairs you start talking about weeks in advance, wondering about the food and entertainment long before the big night arrives.

Munchie, age 7, remembers last year’s gala event – we found a Stooges marathon on cable. But Malfoy, now 4, conked out early on the last night of 2004. This year, however, she was determined to stay up and watch the sparkly ball fall down.

The popcorn was popped to perfection and my husband saw to it that the juice boxes were never empty. Munchie and Malfoy provided running commentary (“Ooh! Mariah Carey is beautiful!”)

Party-hopping is never a good idea. That’s how we found ourselves subjected to the dulcet tones of the Philbins’ Winter Wonderland

The minutes ticked by like hours and as midnight finally approached, we almost lost Malfoy. I tickled her awake just as the first ripple of anticipation rolled through Times Square.

With my pink pajamas wrinkling beneath squirmy little-girl tushies, we all counted backward and watched that sparkly ball fall down.

Rather than explode in a cacophony of fireworks, Suburbia stuttered and sputtered, then quickly simmered down, so Sully, the 150 lb. lap-dog kept his barking-at-nothing to a minimum. And my husband — resplendent in black sleepy-shorts and a T-shirt — kept his yelling-at-the-frigging-dog to a minimum as well.

So, this one wasn’t a champagne and caviar New Year’s Eve. No sparkling gown, no Spago, no limo. I’ve had nights like that before and I expect I will again.

But my wishes and dreams from those days led me to this place. And Wolfgang Puck can’t compete with sleepy little girls. And a limo is no match for a big, warm human pillow…

…which is where I’m headed right… about… now.

(Happy New Year!)

gOInG cRaZY

“Writers write.”

Okay, that’s too vague for me, ’cause I’ve been percolating my next script for a couple of months now and I don’t have much in the way of written words to show for it. I’ve got some compelling story elements, but they’re not coming together for me, yet.

It’s like, I’ve got this really cool Lego piece… and a Lincoln Log and a stick from a Tinker Toy set…

It’s making me nuts.

I’ve got a few scripts under my belt. I know this is part of the process, etc. But I get lost in my head writing a grocery list, for Chrissake.

Ooh, speaking of lists, here’s what I’ve got so far:

1. A couple of interesting characters
2. An intriguing external story (Task)
3. A Strange Attractor
4. A cool world
5. A universal theme

Not a bad list, I know. I read somewhere — some quote? I dunno — that writers see connections that others don’t. Or something like that. However it was originally phrased, it resonates with me. Someone who wishes to be a writer might create connections between the Lego and the Lincoln Log — write in some Crazy Glue and stick ’em together. But a real writer will ultimately find the hidden groove that clicks them into place in an unexpected and yet inevitable way.

And that’s hard.

So, I’m going a little cRaZY.

But that’s writing.

So proud of our little artiste

Daughter #2 (identified in previous blog entries as “Malfoy”), age 4, is an artist. She’ll tell you so, herself. Unlike most kids, who say, “I’m gonna be an artist when I grow up,” she says, “I’m an artist.” All matter-of-fact-like.

Unlike most artists, she’s quite confident in social situations.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, for instance, we visited the largish home of some richish family friends who were having a big, fancy party. Mrs. Family Friend and Malfoy have an unusually close friendship, despite a 46-year age difference and only a few meetings. In fact, Mrs. FF left her other big, fancy party guests to fend for themselves while she and Malfoy went in the other room to refresh their lipstick and spritz perfume.

As we exited the FF’s manse that evening, I told Malfoy how proud I was because she was such a good girl at the FF’s party. And all matter-of-fact-like, she said, “And I didn’t even toot.”

(So proud…)

Luckily, Mrs. FF didn’t offer our little artiste any crayons and paper, else she and her other big, fancy party guests might’ve been treated to something like this recent Malfoy original:

So proud…